WVGOP Chairman Conrad Lucas reveals mother’s possible political ambitions
HAMLIN, W.Va. – The search for a new superintendent of schools in Lincoln County got underway, earlier this week, following a decision by Superintendent Patricia Lucas not to seek a new contract.
Lucas’ announcement came at the March 31, 2015 regular session of the board in Hamlin, attended by four board members in person, with the fifth, Rodney “Rowdy” Baker taking part by telephone. In a surprise development, later the same evening, it was revealed that Lucas is considering a run for West Virginia House of Delegates in District 22 next year.
The agenda for last week’s meeting included an actionable item as follows:
Item H: To renew the contract of Patricia A. Lucas as Superintendent of Schools with the following the terms:_______________________
The terms were not specified in the agenda nor revealed at last week’s meeting. In the past, the terms have specified the length of the contract and the salary for the chief executive.
However, when Lucas read through the administrative items last week as usual, she asked that Item H be deleted, telling the board her employment will end on June 30 next. She will by then have served as superintendent for four years, having been given a two-year contract beginning on July 1, 2011, and a renewed two-year contract beginning July 1, 2013. Lucas was the first locally appointed superintendent in over a decade in Lincoln County. She was at the helm on December 12, 2012 when the West Virginia State Board of Education unanimously voted at Lincoln County High School to devolve all functions back to the county after over a decade of state intervention.
Lucas had been evaluated as required by the Lincoln board in the weeks leading up the March 31 session. The board once again determined that she had met the standards established by the state and the county. There had been some speculation that she would be offered a further contract last week. However, a vote on her future was not required after her decision to step down.
The board’s longest serving member, Carol Smith, was vocal in her praise for Lucas, but also had strong words for her colleagues. Smith said she felt Lucas had done a wonderful job. However, she also spoke of how the board had put much on the shoulders of the superintendent, what Smith described as “busy work.” Smith said she was dissatisfied with the board as a whole.
Board President Steve Priestley described Lucas’ decision as a “surprise to us all.” On behalf of the board, he thanked the outgoing chief executive for all that she had done during her tenure. The agenda for the April 7 session, which took place after press time for this issue of The Lincoln Journal, included a motion to post the position of superintendent. The new appointee will begin in the role on July 1, 2015.
Early speculation on possible candidates centered around current members of the leadership team at the central office and certain principals in the school system. The 2011 competition saw two finalists considered by the board of the day. The first vote was on the nomination of then-McDowell Supt. James Brown. That March 31, 2011 motion fell on a 2-3 vote, with Priestley and Dr. Donna Martin supporting, and Smith, Fred Curry, and K.K. Matthews dissenting. The second nomination was for then-Asst. Supt. Lucas. She secured the position on a 4-1 vote with only Martin voting against.
An insight into Lucas’ possible plans beyond June 30 came shortly after last week’s meeting. The Lincoln Journal pushed a message out on social media (Facebook and Twitter) regarding her decision not to seek a new contract. State Republican Chairman Conrad Lucas, who is also the superintendent’s son, publicly revealed that the departing chief executive is looking at a possible run for elected office. In a sub-tweet response to The Lincoln Journal’s tweet, Lucas wrote, “Yes. She’s strongly considering a run for the West Virginia House of Delegates in District 22.” Later, the superintendent herself provided a brief comment to The Lincoln Journal. “I’ve spent a lifetime in education and serving West Virginia is what I love doing. Retiring from the school system doesn’t mean leaving public service – it gives me an opportunity to consider new ways I can benefit our community. My husband and I have always intended to retire to where I was raised in Harts and I look forward to doing that. If politics is the course I take next, I can definitely say it’s in my blood,” said Lucas.
If she does run in next year’s election, Lucas would be seeking one of the two seats currently held by Delegate Jeff Eldridge (D-Lincoln) and Delegate Michel Moffatt (R-Putnam). District 22 includes 14 of the 16 precincts in Lincoln County. Only the large Hamlin precinct and the smaller of two West Hamlin precincts are not part of the district. It also includes a northern portion of Logan County, a part of Boone County, and a southern portion of Putnam County. In last year’s general election, Eldridge and Moffatt secured the two seats ahead of Gary McCallister (D) and Justin Mullins (R). Among those who have also expressed an interest in running next year is former Delegate Josh Barker (D-Boone). Barker was appointed to serve out the unexpired term of former Delegate Josh Stowers (D-Lincoln). However, he failed to secure the second of the two party nominations in the May 2014 Democratic primary, when he lost out by a single vote to McCallister.
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